The Cayuga power plant is located just outside of Cayuga, Indiana. Owned by Duke Energy Inc., Cayuga has two large coal-fired units with a total generative capacity of over 1.06 gigawatts. A third unit is gas-fired; there are also four small oil-fired units with a combined capacity of just over 1100 kilowatts.
Cayuga has been identified as being among the ten worst polluters in the nation among power generation facilities. Total emissions of sulfuric dioxide in 2006 were in excess of 86,000 tons.
Asbestos is also very likely to have been an issue at Cayuga; this has been the case for virtually all such facilities constructed and operated prior to the 1980s. All types power plants from coal-fired to hydro-powered have historically made extensive use of asbestos insulation because of its insulation properties against to heat and flame as well as electrical current.
Machinery that includes generators, boilers and turbine combustion engines as well as thermal control devices have all been insulated with asbestos at a time when the truth about health hazards of asbestos were kept secret from the general public. This conspiracy on the part of the asbestos industry was revealed in 1977, when the infamous “Sumner Simpson Papers” were discovered in the corporate office of Raysbestos, Inc. The evidence proved that the cover-up had been going on since before World War II.
While asbestos-containing materials may have saved lives and prevented massive property loss over the past century, those who contracted asbestos diseases have suffered disproportionately. Asbestos illness was shown to be a serious work-related hazard for power plant employees when in 2003, a Puerto Rican medical research team examined chest x-rays from 1100 such workers. 13% of the x-rays showed indications of asbestos disease.
Today, the EPA and OSHA have strict regulations in place that protect workers and govern the handling of asbestos containing materials.
Asbestos diseases take decades to become apparent, at which time they have reached an advanced stage. Thanks to new diagnostic methods however, pathologists are now able to detect the early signs of asbestos disease. Former power plant employees and their families should discuss asbestos exposure with their primary care physicians and be checked frequently.
This facility was one of thousands of factories, mills, power plants and worksites that, throughout the first two-thirds of the last century, utilized the naturally occurring mineral known as asbestos because of its ability to resist fire. Even though asbestos' strength as an insulator certainly protected people and property in the short term, the unexpected consequences of using it were horrible: untold numbers of people suffered serious illness and even died because of exposure to asbestos. The reason so many people have suffered from health conditions including "miner's lung" and lung cancer is that when humans inhale or ingest particles of asbestos, the mineral remains in internal organs; once there, the sharp, microscopic spikes damage tissues. In addition, a history of asbestos exposure can cause the extremely hard to treat cancer called mesothelioma, which develops as a tumor of the mesothelium, the tissue that lines the pleural cavity (pleural mesothelioma) or the abdominal cavity (peritoneal mesothelioma). Often, mesothelioma chemotherapy is available from doctors such as Dr. David Sugarbaker in Boston, MA. at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Employees whose jobs put them in contact with asbestos today are generally safe from inhalation due to the many laws regulating its utilization, inclusion in products and disposal. In the past, however, laborers without proper safety gear frequently toiled in areas where asbestos dust filled the air. In addition, employees brought asbestos strands to their homes on their clothes or in their hair when change rooms weren't provided at the company; as a result, the potentially deadly mineral also put at risk families of those who worked around asbestos.
Asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma often take decades to manifest, and the signs of these illnesses can be difficult to distinguish from those of other conditions, so people who were employed at these jobsites during their careers, as well as their partners and children, should talk with their physicians about their history of asbestos contact.Sources
Bowker, Michael. Deadly Deception. (New York: Touchstone, 2003).
Cabrera-Santiago, Manuel et al. “Prevalence of Asbestos-Related Disease Among Electrical Power Generation Workers in Puerto Rico.” Presentation at American Public Health Association Annual Meeting, 2007.
“Cayuga Station.” Duke Energy.
“Existing U.S. Coal Plants.” SourceWatch. 2006.
http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Existing_U.S._Coal_Plants. Retrieved on 2008-08-27.